Trading Health for Weapons

Trading Health for Weapons
Pentagon Threatens Congress

Jason Miller, executive editor of Federal News Radio, published an article on May 31, 2012, that made me want to embrace Congress for the first time in a very long time.

He reported, “The Department of Defense (DoD) continues to beat the ‘don’t change our budget’ drum to get the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The Pentagon is sending a warning to Congress: “For every dollar legislators add back into the DoD budget, for every program (i.e. TRICARE) lawmakers keep alive that the military wants to end (or alter drastically), and basically every change to the fiscal 2013 request will leave DoD with an imbalance in how it meets it mission.”

My immediate thought: is the Pentagon really building the force we need for the future? They haven’t proven it to me as of this date.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on May 30, 2012, that, “Every dollar the U.S. spends on old and unnecessary programs is a dollar we lose from new, necessary strategic investments. When we’re forced to hold onto older, less-capable systems, we cannot buy newer and more capable systems. So others can pick one item or another that they favor, but we have to balance them all.”

I believe in moving forward and advancement, but not at the cost to those who have already served.

Mr. Carter’s speech moved directly to DoD’s costs to provide healthcare to veterans and service members using the TRICARE program as THE area where the military could lose investment money. In other words, don’t invest in healthcare for those that have served when the DoD could be buying more weapons. The Pentagon is willing to toss away the quality of healthcare to which veterans and their families have become accustomed. These individuals have already paid the price for their country. According to Mr. Carter, we (veterans and family members) must be exchanged for the Pentagon’s envisioned defense plan.

Earlier this year, the DoD proposed to raise fees for working-age retirees, impose fees for the first time on Medicare-eligible TRICARE beneficiaries and raise prescription co-pays at retail pharmacies in an effort to push TRICARE users to use the DoD’s less expensive mail order prescription service. Military healthcare facilities would continue to fill prescriptions at no cost.

The DoD routinely takes a one-size-fits-all approach when considering retirees—working age or not.

Frequently the ravages of the military lifestyle and war leave the veterans unable to continue working. The retirement pay of an enlisted soldier is inadequate for survival in today’s economy.

The proposals set forth by the DoD have numerous drawbacks.

Even if a retiree lives near a healthcare facility, it’s rare that facilities will inventory medications for a geriatric population. Military healthcare facilities are intended for the active duty population and were never intended to serve the retired population.

The problems with mail order prescriptions are numerous: those of us with a private payer over TRICARE would no longer receive our co-payment coverage with TRICARE. Additionally, the amount of waste with mail order prescriptions is legendary. I have a relationship regarding my medication with my independent pharmacist who routinely watches for interactions with other medications I take—this too disappears. And, if mail order prescriptions were required, thousands of independent pharmacies would go out of business, with their former workers unemployed. Something else that bothers me is the temperature range of the average mailbox. Many drugs cannot withstand these ranges and still be effective. Last, but not least, is the issue of medications being stolen from the mail and mail boxes. Drug addiction is at an all time high. Why put innocent TRICARE enrollees in the middle of this epidemic?

It seems to me as I continue to read and study that Congress may actually be on the side of a stronger military. The DoD, on the other hand, wants to do away with benefits, seriously reduce troop strength, close additional bases and overall forget from where the warriors of the United States military are recruited.

The DoD must understand that the retired population is more diverse than ever. We are an existing source for keeping the all-volunteer military alive. However, if the DoD continues to treat us as if we are beggars on a cold street corner, why would we want to encourage anyone to live the military life?

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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6 Responses to Trading Health for Weapons

  1. gpcox says:

    I always enjoy your visits to my site (and remember you have my e-mail and snail mail addresses) it lets me know you and Tom are doing well. Despite your busy schedule, you still continue to visit my posts and that is the sign of good friends.

  2. Sheri, spoken like a true patriot. You are at the front … keeping us all aware of ever changing climate out there. We all owe you a debt of gratitude 🙂

    • Florence, these are the causes I love to become involved in. I believe the men and women that have served our nation–along with their families–deserve what they were promised when they signed on the dotted line. Those that want to take away the benefits did not crawl on their bellies in the jungles of Viet Nam or lose limbs due to roadside bombs–nor do they suffer from nightmares along with PTSD. I’m beginning to believe that every person that makes policy must serve a minimum of 4 years in the military (and not behind a desk).

  3. Sheri, this sounds disastrous. And not a wise solution on the DoD’s part. What I don’t understand is how they treat the retired and/or sick military persons like so many useless have-beens, instead of giving them the benefits that they’re “due” because of their past service.

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